Ralph Nader on Democracy Now!
- Ralph Nader on the Ohio Recount, Bush's Cabinet Reshuffle and the
"Lowballing" of U.S. Casualties in Iraq
As the Ohio delegation to the Electoral College cast its votes for
President Bush despite calls for a review of voting irregularities,
we speak with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader about
the Ohio recount, the future of the Democratic Party, the
reshuffling of Bush's cabinet, the occupation of Iraq and much more.
[includes rush transcript]
The Ohio delegation to the Electoral College cast its votes for
President Bush on Monday, but not before a coalition of groups asked
the state Supreme Court to review the outcome of the state's
The challengers, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, cited widespread
allegations of voting irregularities, voter suppression and fraud in
Ohio on Nov. 2nd and questioned whether President Bush won the key
swing state by 119,000 votes as certified by Secretary of State
Kenneth Blackwell last week.
The court did not act on the request before the ballots were cast
yesterday and the 20 GOP electors voted unanimously for Bush and
Vice President Dick Cheney. If the court decides to hear the
challenge, it can declare a new winner or throw out the results.
Third party candidates, David Cobb of the Green Party and Michael
Badnarik of the Libertarian Party are paying for recounts in each of
Ohio's 88 counties that will begin this week.
Blackwell spoke to reporters inside the Ohio statehouse yesterday
about the recount.
Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of state speaking to reporters,
December 13, 2004.
Independent candidate Ralph Nader was ready to initiate a recount in
Ohio in the days following the election but could not, since only
candidates appearing on the Ohio ballot have legal standing to do
so. Nader was blocked from appearing on the ballot in Ohio by
Democratic Party efforts. Nader did successfully seek a recount in
New Hampshire in precincts where Diebold voting machines were used.
Ralph Nader, 2004 independent presidential candidate. His new book
is called "The Good Fight : Declare Your Independence and Close the
Democracy Gap by Ralph Nader."
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AMY GOODMAN: Blackwell spoke to reporters inside the Ohio State
House yesterday about the recount.
KENNETH BLACKWELL: It is the generosity of Ohio law that allows them
to request this recount; and we are in fact are going to abide by
Ohio law and give them that recount. Now, no matter how much they
protest, no matter how many lawsuits they file, I have the fullest
of confidence in the integrity of our system.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell of Ohio,
speaking with reporters. Independent candidate, Ralph Nader, was
ready to initiate a recount in Ohio in the days following the
election but couldn't, since only candidates appearing on the Ohio
ballot have legal standing to do so. Ralph Nader was blocked from
appearing on the ballot in Ohio by Democratic party efforts. Nader
did successfully seek a recount in New Hampshire in precincts where
Diebold voting machines were used, and he joins us in Washington
studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ralph Nader.
RALPH NADER: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. First, can you comment
on the electoral college vote in Ohio?
RALPH NADER: Well, there were a lot of irregularities, but most of
them so far occurred before election day. This was a Katherine
Harris production by Kenneth Blackwell, to depress the minority vote
or the vote in heavily Democratic areas. One of the most notable
ways was to reduce the number of voting machines in areas where
there were heavy minority, pro-Democrat voters. We pointed all this
out to Kerry-Edwards a few days after the election, chiding them for
conceding too early and running out the back door and ignoring their
repeated promise during the campaign that they were going to make
sure every vote was going to be counted. So, it's good that there's
going to be recount. How rigorous and fair it is and how upstanding
the courts will be remain to be seen. The Ohio Supreme Court,
notably in our case, ignored a clear U.S. Supreme Court decision in
Pennsylvania that had exact parallels in Ohio to keep us off the
ballot, so it's not very hopeful from the judicial point of view;
but it's important that the coalition do what it's doing.
AMY GOODMAN: You had a strange situation at night, election night,
when John Edwards came out and said: "Don't worry, every vote will
be counted, be patient," and then hours later, the same John Edwards
coming out, this time with John Kerry, conceding the election
without many more votes counted. There is reports that there was a
major split between them that morning -- of the morning after. What
about that, Ralph Nader?
RALPH NADER: Yeah. My understanding is that John Edwards didn't want
to concede that quickly, and there was a argument of sorts before
the one o'clock concession on November third about raising the issue
of every vote being counted, especially in Ohio. But the consultants
to Kerry prevailed. I guess they didn't want him to appear to sour
grapes or appear that he wasn't going out in a classy way.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about how the media now deals with this
issue? Very much the media, you know, expressing the spectrum
between the Democrats and the Republicans, but when the Democrats
agree with the Republicans, then the media doesn't pursue things
further. They very quickly -- The New York Times had a major piece
on the conspiracy theories around any kind of electoral fraud. Your
comment on that.
RALPH NADER: Yes, well, the media -- the general media will not move
on this until the Democratic Party takes a strong role. Kerry did
send some observers in there. The party, the D.N.C., did file along
with the coalition in one of the legal proceedings; but the media
has made up its mind that there's nothing there. They don't know
what they don't know. I mean, nobody knows what's there. That's why
there's going to be a recount. There are very sufficient, probative
irregularities that occurred before, during the election that
warrant a recall. Some of those are described on our website,
votenader.org which is trying to keep up with this recount
situation. Others are reflected in John Conyers' recent hearing on
Capitol Hill, which was blacked out by the mass media. This is so
far more an independent media focus.
AMY GOODMAN: What about what happened in New Hampshire, and where
did you get a recount?
RALPH NADER: Well, we got a recount in a few wards in New Hampshire,
which came out okay. New Hampshire has a Secretary of State that's
been there for many years, very non-partisan, very professional. And
they have a paper trail. And one of the things that we proved in New
Hampshire as -- people who want more detail can go to our web site
votenader.org -- is that the system worked there because there was a
paper trail. But in Maryland and other states where there was not a
paper trail, there's no way to make that kind of quick parallel
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it's possible that John Kerry won? I mean,
with reports in Ohio, for example, one precinct having 638 voters,
about 4,000 votes going to Bush in that case and another when they
were counting them at the end of the day, the county commissioner
locking down, not allowing any observers, and when they were
criticized over the next few days, she ended up saying that
Department of Homeland Security and F.B.I. had approached her right
before the election and said there was a 'number ten national
security threat in the area,' and so she said she thought she
responded appropriately. The F.B.I. and Homeland Security then said
they never made this call or they had never sent an agent to
RALPH NADER: Well, in addition to examples like that, and there were
52,000 votes more than there were voters in Cuyahoga County, which
was automatically corrected, so that's not -- That's just probative
of a climate that there's something there: A very partisan Secretary
of State (sort of a Katherine Harris wannabe), a Republican
legislature, a Republican governor. The stakes were enormous. You
have 11,500 precincts, ten vote a precinct on the average. Anything
is possible with an honest recount.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about what's happening with the
Democratic Party right now, and who will become head of it. I wanted
to turn to Howard Dean, a clip of what he had to say as he runs to
head up the Democratic Party.
HOWARD DEAN: Here in Washington, it seems that every time we lose an
election, there's a consensus reached among decision-makers in the
Democratic Party that the way to win is to be more like Republicans.
I suppose you could call that a philosophy, and this is the name of
that philosophy: If you don't beat them, then join them. I'm not
going to make a prediction, but if we accept that philosophy this
time around, then four years from now another Democrat will be
standing right here, giving the same speech. We cannot win by being
Republican-lite. We've tried it. It does not work.
AMY GOODMAN: Howard Dean. Your response, Ralph Nader.
RALPH NADER: Well, it's a mixed response. I mean, he's quite right
in what he says, but he spent the last few months being the hatchet
man trying to get us off the ballot, one of the people that the
Democratic party assigned, and that's the way he restored his
credentials with the established Democratic Party. That cost us over
a million dollars and we're still in debt on this, and as you can
see from our website, votenader.org, we're trying to offer
memorabilia and other ways to get out of debt, because they violated
our civil liberties, something that will be a more compelling issue
in the coming months. The idea of the Democrats saying every vote
should be counted, but there are certain candidates that are not
going to be allowed on the ballot if we can hire enough corporate
Republican law firms and harass them and file phony lawsuits. He was
all part of that. But, just hearing what he has to say, he's right
on. And the established Democratic Party now is getting ready again
to gang up on Howard Dean and defeat him for the D.N.C. chair, just
the way they ganged up on him in the primary. This is not a party in
decay, Amy. This is a decadent party. A decaying party ends up going
out of the way. It's replaced. A decadent party remains, loss after
loss, after loss, for the last ten years at the local, state and
national level, to the worst of the Republican Party. And there's no
major insurgency, except what is attempted by Howard Dean. And my
prediction is that he's simply not going to make it. There's going
to be another bland, monetized mind running the D.N.C. and curtsying
to the Democratic Leadership Council, which is really the corporate
Democrats that have run this party into the ground over the last
AMY GOODMAN:We're talking to independent, Ralph Nader. We're going
to go to a break and then come back with him.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ralph Nader, joining us in Washington,
D.C. Ralph ran for president in this election. Now the election is
over. Just to clarify did you say that you think it is possible John
Kerry might have won? I mean --
RALPH NADER: In Ohio, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: In general?
RALPH NADER: No. I mean, nobody knows, but there's so many
suspicious situations, so many gigantic mistakes that were made in a
number of precincts which were corrected to warrant looking at the
other 11,000-plus precincts. But worse than that, of course, is that
Secretary Blackwell, who is a republican, tried to discourage
registration forms from being accepted, when the Cleveland Plain
Dealer recommended that people fill out a coupon in the newspaper.
He said that wasn't thick enough paper. There were just a lot of
things that he did before the election that he's going to get away
with because doing these kinds of shenanigans by the Secretary of
State is considered politics. The republicans are in control in some
states, democrats control the others. It's not considered the
Constitutional crime that it really is. So a lot of the damage, Amy,
was done before election day. That's not going to be recovered with
a recount, but there certainly is enough evidence, certainly enough
eyewitness accounts, as Harvey Wasserman has pointed out and others
in his daily dispatches, to warrant a recount, and that recount will
occur, but it has got to occur under vigilance.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, right now the nominees of President Bush
and also the agenda around issues like Social Security and where the
RALPH NADER: Well, I don't know where some of them stand. They're
not coming back fighting except Harry Reid, the new minority leader
for the democrats in the Senate from Nevada, very clearly took a
stand on Social Security. That was very refreshing. But Mrs. Pelosi,
for example, Nancy Pelosi, she says, well, it's tough that I have to
be on the table. You don't deal that way with Social Security. There
is no crisis in Social Security. It's absolutely solvent until 2052,
according to the Social Security trustees, who are pretty
conservative. The slightest changes can continue it on for the rest
of the century. Medicare is the one with sky rocketing corporate
health costs that is in trouble. But Wall Street and the republicans
and the ideologues, including George W. Bush, have got their eyes on
these private accounts. That's the first way to undermine Social
Security, to weaken its ability to respond to the post-baby boomers,
and to pour that money into Wall Street. The democrats just have to
all get together in Congress and have a bright line where they say
to the republicans, "You're not getting across this line. We're
going to block you on this, this, and this, and we're going to have
our own proposals for living wage; for universal health care; for
how to get out of Iraq; for a systematic adequately budgeted
crackdown on corporate crime, fraud and abuse; for the conversion of
our country into solar and renewable energy " A lot of the things
which I tried to point out in my new book, The Good Fight, which is
designed to say that the issue in politics today is -- the central
issue is the concentration of corporate power. Too much corporate
power over too many of our institutions, from elections to
government to universities to childhood. That's where the democrats
have to stand, and that's where they can win. Too much corporate
power, something recognized even by BusinessWeek magazine and many
others in the business press that have been chronicling this
overwhelming epidemic of corporate abuse.
AMY GOODMAN: What about Carlos Gutierrez, head of commerce, now Mike
Leavitt moving over from E.P.A. to head Department of Health and
Human Services, a Utah Mormon, fiercely anti-choice. It might not
have been as relevant head the Environmental Protection Agency, but
certainly when it comes to H.H.S.
RALPH NADER: This is bringing crony cabinets to a new level of
unprecedented intensity. I think Bush, of course, never admits to a
mistake. Bush has never met with an anti-war group in the Iraq
invasion, before, during or after. 13 of them from the National
Council of Churches to veterans to former intelligence officials to
peace groups all tried to meet with him before the invasion. He
turned them down. Now he's placing all of his cronies in all of
these cabinet positions because he doesn't want candid commentary
and candid advice. This is a closed-mind messianic militarist, who
can be vulnerable politically, if you had a steadfast Democratic
Party who knew what it stood for. Because the old story, refusing to
bend, he broke, will apply to Bush in politics, because he is
setting himself up for being advised by sycophants. This is like a
royal court, being advised by sycophants. But the democrats have got
to begin to develop their public policy, otherwise they're going to
continue to lose and lose, as they abandon whole regions in the
country that they call red states, one of the most mischievous
notions in political circles.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you wrote an open letter to President Bush
regarding the destruction of Fallujah mosques, and have also written
a letter about the state of the anti-war movement in this country.
Can you comment on both?
RALPH NADER: Yes. I mean, first of all, Bush is deliberately low-
balling U.S. casualties. If there are injuries in non-combat
situations, even though it's hostile territory in Iraq, large
numbers of diseases like sandfly disease, severe mental trauma, none
of these are mentioned. So, the actual injured casualty toll, if you
include diseases is more than triple the official amount. And I have
been going after the White House for six-seven months on this;
there's been no response. I sent it to the Kerry campaign saying
that you should run with this. No response. The media -- White House
media is not asking these questions. You ought to go down once in a
while and be part of that White House media, Amy. Teach them how to
ask some tough questions. As far as the mosques are concerned, Bush
keeps saying he wants to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi
people. Yes, the mosques have been used as base for resistance in
more than a few instances, but if you win the tactic by destroying
the mosque, and you lose the strategy, it's like winning the battle
and losing the war. With all of his messianic statements, a lot of
Muslims believe that this is a religious war against them. Half of
the mosques in Fallujah, which is known as the City of Mosques, were
destroyed or badly damaged, and now soldiers are running into major
mosques, such as one in Baghdad, looking for suspects, and they did
at one right after prayer time on a Friday, very recently, for which
the U.S. military mildly apologized. But I basically asked Bush,
what is your position here? Where are your guidelines? Where are
your rules? So you don't further inflame the very people that you
are trying to persuade to be on your side. But this is all part of
Bush's so-called war on terrorism, which is you pursue it in a way
like invading Iraq that will produce more terrorists and more
terrorism, endangering America in ways that the republicans -- the
democrats and John Kerry decline to point out in their insufferable
obeisance to the wartime president.
AMY GOODMAN: It's interesting --
RALPH NADER: This will be elaborated further. I think the anti-war
movement went on hibernation because of anybody-but-Bush syndrome
for a year, and severely weakened itself. It needs to reassert
AMY GOODMAN: In the last few days, the news headlines, they have
said that ten U.S. Marines have died in the al Anbar province.
That's unusual. They usually say where. Of course, Fallujah is right
there. What do you think of this fact that we're getting less and
less information right now?
RALPH NADER: Well, I think the military over there has been
interviewed by people, members of Congress and one of them came back
and said, not one of the military officers said that the U.S. was
winning over there. So, obviously, there's a sugar-coating going on,
as occurred in the Vietnam War, that needs to be explored. I mean,
the best scenario for Bush now is a puppet regime with candidates
who are pre-cleared for running for the elections in January. They
have to have good character, not have been involved in any
disruptive activity, and had a certain level of education, which is
obviously so discretional -- discretionary that it's like a pre-
selection process for a puppet regime, with the oil industry in
control of their basic natural resource. This is not a prescription
for a peaceful transition. It's not a prescription for any kind of
modest, democratic society. Of course, that's one reason why the
Iraq insurgency is growing. There's simply not enough attention on
Paul Bremer's 100 dictatorial decrees that he left behind, including
extending Saddam Hussein's ban on workers forming trade unions for
which they can be arrested and put in jail and have been under the
occupation when they were demonstrating. There's a long tradition of
oil industry workers in trade unions before Saddam Hussein, and now
his decree, this dictator's decree, was extended by Paul Bremer's
dictatorial decrees. I would urge people to look up these Bremer
decrees, and just see what a puppet regime is going to inherit and
will be unable to change if there is an election in January.
AMY GOODMAN: Today Paul Bremer, George Tenet and Tommy Franks are
all being awarded the nation's highest award, the Medal of Freedom
by President Bush. Finally, speaking of presidents, are you going to
run for president in 2008, Ralph Nader?
RALPH NADER: I don't know. I do know that there has got to be more
voices and choices. The two-party system has got to be broken up. We
have to break out of this 220 year prison called the electoral
college, winner take all, two-party elected dictatorship. It's just
getting worse and they're converging more and more and surrendering
corporate power -- surrendering our government to corporate power.
We want a lot of alternative candidates, green, independent,
libertarian at the local, state and national level. If you want to
see -- Amy, if you want to see the trajectory of what I see in this
country, because of unbridled corporate power, it's in the book, The
Good Fight, which I urge people to read.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, independent presidential candidate, author
of The Good Fight, joining us from Washington. Thank you.
RALPH NADER: Thank you, Amy.
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